Having her own studio had always been a dream for Christina King, but the opportunity came at an unexpected time when she wasn’t actively searching to start up her own business.
King, 46, is the owner of a belly dance studio in Elgin, Illinois. She has been teaching belly dance for 14 years and has had the studio, Eastern Groove, for about nine years. Classes are offered five days a week with opportunities to learn four different styles of belly dance. King mostly teaches a style called Tribal Fusion and teaches students at varying levels.
King came across the studio after taking a yoga class there with one of her friends and “liked the space a lot.” She asked the owners of the building if she could teach a belly dance class at the studio once a week and they agreed. Eventually, the yoga instructor moved and the owners of the building asked King if she wanted to rent out the space.
“[It] sort of fell in my lap,” King said. “It just all happened organically.”
Although having her own studio “had always been a dream,” King wasn’t actively looking for places back in 2008, when she first opened. King had been teaching at the local park district and was content. But when she had the opportunity to have her own place, she agreed.
“How cool would that be to control your own business, control your own destiny?” King said.
King’s family lived in Turkey when she was a child; living there left a cultural impact on her. But watching a belly dancer at a Renaissance fair when she was 12 years old, she said, is when the art first caught her eye.
“I was just entranced,” said King.
However, it wasn’t until she graduated college that King started to take classes herself. Even then, King said she was learning in “a more casual group situation” before seeking out professional mentors.
King “never really had an [official] opening” when she started to teach lessons at her studio. She told her park district students she was leaving and moving to her own studio.
“The students that I had at the center largely followed me here when I stopped teaching there,” King said. “So, that was a built-in influx of students.”
King creates the choreography she teaches her students and, when they’ve advanced, gives them the opportunity to perform at venues like the Martini Room, a local bar about a block from her studio.
“You get, ‘I’m never doing this in front of other people, no one is ever going to see me do this,’ and then a year later they’re like ‘can I be in the show?’” King said of her students with a laugh.
Although Eastern Groove, 221 E. Chicago St., came to her unexpectedly, having a studio had always been something King said she wanted.
“I remember her saying that one day she wanted to have her own studio,” said Michelle Taylor, an instructor at Eastern Groove and long-time friend of King’s. “I’m proud of her, she did it.”
King said the idea to operate her own studio comes from “watching her own dance heroes” get their own studios and from her dad, who also had his own business.
“I grew up in a small business and there was something about that, that seemed just so natural,” she said.
By taking belly dance classes, King said people are gaining things “we take for granted,” such as good posture.
“A lot of people have desk jobs and you’re hunched over this computer, and you’re hunched over in your car and the world’s posture is suffering because of that,” she said laughing.
King also sees people find strength in themselves.
“I think it helps people find a little bit of confidence they may not have known they had,” she said. “They get to be brave and try something they haven’t tried before.”
King said what she likes about teaching is the “real community” she has seen being built through dance.
“What the most rewarding thing about this, is finding that these women that I work with have created their own sisterhood and their own support group,” she said. “That’s what I’m proudest of.”
To see Christina King teaching her level 2 belly dance class, watch this video: